The memoir of a prominent Sikh World War II veteran who fought against racism in the Newton Legion was released in Surrey Saturday afternoon.
Authored by Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, "A Soldier Remembers" is a memoir of 93-year-old former lt colonel Pritam Singh Jauhal, who captured headlines across the world for challenging the racist policy of the Newton Legion in Surrey that barred the entry of turbaned Sikhs inside the club in 1993.
Jauhal and other Sikh war veterans who served for the British Empire during World War II were denied entry into the legion on remembrance day. The legion officials insisted they could only go in after removing their turbans as the rules forbid veterans from entering the club with headgear. This was despite the fact English women were allowed to attend with berets, according to A Solider Remembers.
Soon enough, Jauhal became a prominent Sikh figure for fighting against this and became the face of the Sikh struggle against racism in Canada.
He wrote a letter of protest to the Newton Legion detailing the sacrifices made by the South Asian soldiers during World War II in a bloody fight against Nazis. He also wrote to the Queen of England, who remembered his letter when he had the opportunity to have tea with her during the royal visit to Canada in 1994.
Jauhal also had the support of former BC minister Penny Priddy, who was at the controversial remembrance day ceremony and walked out in protest.
Following Jauhal’s correspondence with the Queen and the support he received from mainstream allies, like Priddy, the Legion apologized and amended its policy.
The audience listens as lt Colonel Pritam Singh Jauhal speaks at Surrey’s Newton Library for the launch of his biography, A Soldier Remembers.
But Jauhal still received threatening letters and calls from the white supremacists for raising the controversial issue. The book reveals how his wife suffered cardiac arrest and died during those difficult times. His honour was finally restored when the Legion was relocated to White Rock where he was invited years later to make a speech. He was also given a seat on the podium along with the Legion President.
Jauhal, now 93, was at Surrey’s Newton Library for the book launch. He read aloud from the book’s prologue and recalled the racist slurs thrown at him, like “Paki go back,” when he first migrated to Canada in 1980. After his speech, Jauhal received a standing ovation in which some Sikhs raised religious slogans of victory.
Former minister Priddy was also at Newton Library and spoke about Jauhal’s “heroic fight” in ensuring equal rights to Sikhs in Canada.
“He did not accept the status quo,” she told the crowd.
After her speech Jauhal and Priddy hugged.
Among other prominent figures at the library were MLA Sue Hammell, MP Jasbeer Sandhu, former MLA Dave Hayer, the President of the Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver Sohan Singh Deo, the author Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra and Satwinder Kaur Bains, Director of the Center for Indo Canadian Studies of the University of the Fraser Valley which has published the book.